Gerard Pique described Real Madrid's first-half performance as the worst he has faced in El Clasico encounters despite Barcelona suffering a 2-0 defeat at Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.
Madrid leapfrogged Barcelona into top spot in LaLiga after claiming its first Clasico league victory in almost four years, with Vinicius Junior and Mariano Diaz on the scoresheet.
READ:Vinicius, Mariano star in Real Madrid's El Clasico win over Barcelona
Pique got a touch on Vinicius' opener but was unable to divert it away from his own net and he admitted his side's second-half display against its bitter rival was not good enough.
But he also fired a broadside at Zinedine Zidane's men, saying Barcelona missed an opportunity to hurt them during a disjointed opening 45 minutes.
"Madrid in the first half was the worst Madrid I've faced at the Bernabeu," Pique told reporters. "We missed a chance to hurt them.
"We have to play better than in the second half, though. We lost balls and they grew in confidence.
"The feeling they [Madrid] transmitted was the worst, and I don't say it as a criticism. We all have problems in our clubs. But I have the feeling that it's an important missed opportunity.
"We are not very well, I say we lost the opportunity to hit the table. We had full control of the game. In the second half, we let them grow based on our losses and they scored a goal, and in the end the second one.
Sergio Ramos fires back
Madrid veteran hit back at Pique over his criticism of Real Madrid, saying he would sign to win every El Clasico playing as badly as the Barcelona defender suggested.
"Everyone's opinion is respectable. I sign to win all Clasicos by making a first half as bad as he says," he told reporters, via AS.
"The approach was different. In the first half, we left the ball and in the second we decided to go.
"They were not so fresh and we started to generate chances."
The defeat left Barcelona a point behind Madrid with 12 LaLiga matches left to play, and Pique said his side's first Clasico league reverse since April 2016 was a painful one to swallow.
He called for the Blaugrana to raise their game going into the final weeks of the season in order to stay in the title race, and said the return to Camp Nou for its forthcoming clash with Real Sociedad would be a welcome one.
"We have been hit but not sunk," said Pique. "There is room for improvement, and we have enough to win LaLiga if we do things well until the end. But we have to do them well.
"Whenever you lose here, you get hurt because of the importance of the game and the points. If we won, it would have been an important step.
"We have to focus on improving, especially in the second half. Now games come at home, where we are more solvent.
"We will aim to win, game by game, and hope they [Madrid] slip up."
While pleased with the advantage, Ramos urged his side to remain focused late in the campaign.
"That's right. After the latest results we wanted to claim [first] and what better way than at home and before a great team like Barca," the defender said
"It was a unique opportunity to depend on ourselves. There are three important points but there is much left.
"We must have our feet on the ground."